Seventh grader Alex Zuniga poses with teacher Brian Lumsden after winning a $50 Walmart gift card. Photo by Erik Pague.
Turning pages could lead to big prizes at McFarland Middle School. The school's Accelerated Reader program offers incentives to those students who earn points. Points are awarded based on difficulty of the reading material and the reader's comprehension. The incentive program started first in the seventh-grade level. Teachers Brian Lumsden and Carolyn Herrud wanted to increase reading levels and scores at the school. Kids were not excited to be reading, Lumsden said. With low reading scores, they knew something needed to be done. Implementing an incentive program meant more people were picking up books from the library, reading them and understanding them. In fact, the librarian said more kids than ever are renewing their books, instead of just turning them in unread, Lumsden said. The seventh-grade teachers saw a huge increase in the amount of AR participants and reading scores in general. To help find reward items for the readers, the teachers are partnering up with local people in the business community. Representatives at Time Out, Walmart, Ace Hardware and Othello Sporting Goods contributed last year. McDonald's even bought a Kindle as a prize. This is helping kids discover how enjoyable reading can be, Herrud said. They didn't used to be excited, but now they are always carrying a book with them and begging the teachers to have reading days in class. The reading has helped enrich the discussions the teachers are seeing within the classroom, too. "It's much richer, much more involved," Herrud said. Because the AR incentive program was so successful, the program has been extended to all the grade levels this year, Lumsden said. Right now, the goal for reading is 10 points. Points are based on how difficult a book is and how many questions the reader gets right. The students who meet their 10-point goal each won a small fry from McDonalds. For example, if a person were to read "The Hunger Games," by Suzanne Collins, and answer all questions correctly, that student would earn 15 AR points. Some of the students have, in the one semester school has been in session, already topped 650 points. They also were able to enter their name into a drawing. They got a ticket for each additional 10 points they earned. There are different tiers of prizes that can also be earned. For example, those who read more will be eligible to win bigger prizes. In a drawing held Jan. 25, readers won things like a $50 Walmart giftcard and a BMX bike. At the end of the year, a scholarship for $1,000, given by McDonalds, will be awarded to one student. For this prize, the top two readers in each grade level will be entered to win. This is going to do very positive things for the school, Lumsden said.